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Derry child Manus Deery 'was eating chips when soldier shot him dead'

Family hope inquest reveals truth about sibling's death

By Suzanne Breen

Published 17/10/2016

Helen Deery's brother Manus
Helen Deery's brother Manus
The memorial to Manus Deery in Meenan Square in Derry. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 16.10.16
Helen Deery, whose brother Manus was killed by the Army in 1972 in the Bogside in Londonderry

An inquest into the death of a teenage boy killed by the Army in highly controversial circumstances in Londonderry opens today.

Fifteen-year-old Manus Deery was shot dead as he ate chips with his friends in the Bogside in May 1972.

He had left home with a comic magazine tucked into the back of his trousers.

The soldier who fired the fatal shot was never prosecuted, despite an official admission that the Army's own 'yellow card' guidelines - stating when the military can open fire - had been broken.

Manus's shooting became one of the most controversial killings during the Troubles in Derry.

The Attorney General, John Larkin, ordered a new inquest into the death in 2012.

A range of military and civilian witnesses will give evidence to the inquest which is expected to last a fortnight.

Helen Deery, Manus's sister, last night told the Belfast Telegraph: "For 44 years, my family have fought for justice. We finally seem to be getting somewhere with the opening of this inquest.

"Manus was an innocent child whose young life was brutally taken from him.

"He did nothing wrong.

"At the beginning, the British Army claimed that he was a gunman - that wasn't true. He wasn't rioting either.

"Manus was eating a bag of chips and chatting to his friends when a soldier opened fire on him."

Helen said that her brother's shooting had destroyed her family.

"I was only 13 when Manus was killed," she said.

"He was a boy's boy.

"He loved music, cowboy books and wee girls.

"He was always playing truant from school and raiding orchards for apples.

"Everything changed for ever on the night that Manus was taken from us.

"I came home from babysitting to find my mother sedated in my father's arms.

"Losing their son took a massive toll on my parents' health. They were never the same again.

"When they passed away, the rest of us pledged to continue the campaign to have the truth told about what happened to Manus.

"We have been through so much over the years, our hearts have been broken so many times.

"We don't want to get our hopes up too high with this inquest, but we are cautiously optimistic that the truth will at last be told."

A previous inquest held in 1973 returned an open verdict.

The family hope that this one will conclude that the Derry teenager was unlawfully killed.

Just weeks earlier, Manus had started working in the Thomas French factory in Springtown.

He received his first pay packet hours before he was killed.

Helen said: "Manus had his own money in his pocket for the first time in his life.

"That evening, life seemed full of promise for him.

"He had everything in front of him.

"He bought a Bee Gees' record with his wages, and gave my mother some money.

"He went out to see his friends.

"He had a Commando comic tucked into the back of his trousers.

"He knew he would be meeting Margaret McCool - a wee girl he was mad about - and he didn't want her to know he was still reading comics."

Manus bought chips from the local chippy, the Scooby Doo.

He was standing with his friends in Meenan Square, close to the Bogside Inn, when he was shot by a soldier firing from Derry's Walls.

"Margaret McCool held his head in her lap as he lay dying. That was always a comfort to us," said Helen.

She recalled how her brother had brought the family dog with him to meet his friends.

"Freddy was with Manus when he was shot.

"After that, he always refused to go into that street.

"One evening, not long before my brother was killed, he had gone to the army barracks about Freddy.

"He told them that Freddy Deery, who had black hair and brown eyes, was missing.

"It was only when Manus mentioned the grey hair in his tail that the soldiers realised he meant a dog.

"That was how innocent Manus was."

Soldier A, who fired one high-velocity bullet, which hit Manus in the head, has since died.

But Soldier B, who was with him but didn't fire, will give evidence to the inquest from behind a screen.

Both soldiers insisted that they had spotted a gunman.

The soldiers' commanding officer will give evidence.

The inquest will also hear from police, medical and civilian witnesses.

Neither soldier A nor B had to appear at the original 1973 inquest at which the family weren't legally represented.

The soldiers' depositions - later given to the family - were illegible, Helen claimed.

"We fought for years to see the RUC investigation file. When we eventually got it, we couldn't believe it," she said.

"There was a statement from our mother 'Margaret'. Our mother's name was Mary and the RUC had never taken a statement from her.

"There was also a statement from Manus's 'cousin James'.

"We have no cousin James."

A report of a re-enactment of the circumstances of the controversial shooting, which took place in May, will form a central part of the evidence at the inquest.

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